Long live the Georgia peach!
So, I’m not from Georgia, but I can still cheer for my adopted state’s fruit and identity. An interesting piece from the New York Times was written about the fruit and the rivalry that exists between The Peach State and its neighboring state, South Carolina: The Wanna-be Peach State. Sure, they may produce more peaches than Georgia, but more doesn’t make better does it?
Here’s an excerpt from the story in the New York Times:
The Georgia peach farmers, grim-faced beneath their John Deere caps, sat in the auditorium unmoved by the enthusiasm of their South Carolina counterparts. Quantity, they said, cannot replace quality.
“They’re trying to make it up in volume but they can’t best us,” said Will McGehee of Pearson Farm, pointing out that South Carolina’s nights are too cool for truly great peaches.
“The key to a good peach is a hot night,” Mr. McGehee said. “What makes it miserable for humans makes it perfect for peaches.”
Georgia began its peach dominance as the South rebuilt itself after the Civil War. In the late 1800s, the state began shipping the Elberta — a firm, yellow-fleshed peach named for a farmer’s wife — to New York and other East Coast cities.
But by the 1950s, South Carolina had taken over as the biggest peach-producing state. Now, although quantities have dropped, it ships 90,000 tons a year compared with Georgia’s 40,000 tons, according to United States Department of Agriculture statistics. (New Jersey follows with 32,000 tons.)
Georgia peach farmers have been fighting back, focusing on what they argue is a superior flavor that can come only from the unique mix of heat and red clay soil in their state.
They have taken to marketing the Georgia peach as an exclusive and seasonal item. They have even resorted to the mascot, paying someone to dress like a seven-foot peach named “Big Fuzzy.”
The brand appears to have an edge, at least among Internet users. Searches for “Georgia peaches” have outpaced those for “South Carolina peaches” by nearly 20 percent since 2004, said Sandra Heikkinen of Google.
So who really grows the best peach? In this good-natured rivalry, there may be no real way to judge. Plenty of variables determine what makes the kind of peach that drenches your hand and tastes exactly like summer. Rain, heat and soil conditions all play a part, as does the variety planted and the time from the tree to the eater’s mouth.
“I honestly don’t think you can taste a difference,” said Josh Tanner, the produce coordinator for Whole Foods stores in the South. “There is a lot of state pride and that’s what it’s about.”
In honor of Georgia’s great peach, here are a few simple recipes to enjoy summer’s treasured, sweet stone-fruit:
Take 4 peaches and dice into small bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl along with 1 cup fresh blueberries and 1 cup fresh blackberries or raspberries. Add 1 cup pomegranate-flavored Craisins. Enjoy alone as fruit salad or over granola and yogurt. Another variation is just take the 4 peaches with 1 cup Splenda or regular sugar, mix with fruit and allow to sit for several minutes to macerate fruit. Then add to 1 stick melted butter, 1 cup self-rising flour, 1 cup milk, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes for a great cobbler.